“We made this oath. Whoever died first would send the other a sign.” Set in the beautiful Paris, Personal Shopper is the thrilling tale of Maureen (Kristen Stewart) as she grieves for her recently deceased twin brother. Dually a supernatural thriller and a dramatic character study, the film uses paranormal elements and millenial technology but stays grounded by focusing on Maureen’s emotional struggles.
When we first meet Maureen, she’s spending the night in a big, old house that belonged to her brother. We quickly learn that she is a medium and that she’s purposely looking to communicate with her deceased twin, also a medium, who died of a heart attack stemming from a heart malfunction from which they both suffer. Desperate for closure, Maureen keeps awaiting her “sign from the beyond” while working as the personal shopper for a high-profile socialite too busy to pick out her own clothes. In between running errands for her boss, Maureen begins to receive mysterious texts from an unknown caller, so unknown that it could even be something malicious from the other side.
As the film unfolds, the supernatural elements can feel a bit hokey. At times it seems almost tacked on to add to the suspense. But between the supernatural, the grief over her brother, and her job as a personal shopper, there’s so much material to mine that the ghost aspect feels weakest. A few times I found myself swept up in watching Maureen grappling with her grief and the way her life has stalled out, only to be distracted by Maureen dropping great lines of dialogue like “she vomited ectoplasm then left”. This becomes downright distracting when she begins receiving mysterious text messages that could be from a ghost. As Maureen begins opening up to this mysterious texter, I sat there wondering if I was really watching someone flirt over text with a ghost.
Still, the film is suspenseful and thrilling. Stewart excels at being Stewart – twitchy, pacing, sullen-eyed, and stuttering her speech. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before but works as the twitchy, nervous Maureen. Certainly strange and sometimes baffling, Personal Shopper is an enjoyable watch that tries too hard to tackle too many genres.